Moriarty findings under investigation outside the State
Cross-border police help sought from Eurojust as CAB investigation broadens scope
Michael Lowry arriving at Dublin Castle where the Moriarty tribunal sat.Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
The findings of the Moriarty tribunal are under investigation by police outside the State, a decade after former minister Michael Lowry was found to have “secured the winning” of the 1995 mobile phone licence competition for Denis O’Brien’s Esat Digifone.
The latest update on the long-running Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) investigation suggests it has widened to include Eurojust, the EU agency for criminal justice co-operation, after gardaí sought help from police outside Ireland.
The current phase of the corruption investigation comes four years after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said no prosecution should be brought after a separate CAB investigation into a 2013 complaint by Mr Justice Michael Moriarty, the tribunal chairman, about the alleged obstruction of his work.
Replying to questions about its examination of the tribunal’s findings, the Garda said: “This is an ongoing investigation with enquires being carried on outside the jurisdiction on foot of a mutual assistance request with the assistance of Eurojust.” However, a spokesman declined to say which other police forces were helping the investigation.
Eurojust, based in The Hague, co-ordinates police work between EU member states and also third countries. The agency, which does not itself conduct or initiate investigations, acts at the request of national authorities in complex cross-border cases. There was no comment from the agency when asked about its involvement.
The tribunal’s voluminous report into one of the most hotly contested licences ever issued by the State was published exactly 10 years ago. The inquiry was established in 1997 to examine payments to the late Charles Haughey and to Mr Lowry. According to a parliamentary question reply by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, the tribunal had cost €65.5 million as of last October. Mr Lowry, who was a member of Fine Gael, is now an Independent TD.
The 2011 report said it was “beyond doubt” that Mr Lowry, minister for communications in 1995 when Esat Digifone won the licence competition, imparted “substantive information” to Mr O’Brien, which was “of significant value and assistance to him in securing the licence”.
It also found that Mr O’Brien made two clandestine payments to Mr Lowry in 1996 and 1999 totalling approximately £500,000 and supported a loan of £420,000 sterling given to Mr Lowry in 1999. The payments from Mr O’Brien were “demonstrably referable to the acts and conduct of Mr Lowry” during competition process, benefiting Esat Digifone.
The initial payment was routed through a series of offshore bank accounts, commencing in the Isle of Man, moving to Jersey and terminating in an Isle of Man account in Mr Lowry’s name.
Mr O’Brien rejected the tribunal’s report, saying at the time that it was based on “opinions” with no basis in evidence, fact and law. He insisted he never made any payment to Mr Lowry “in his capacity as a government minister, as a public representative or as a private citizen”.
At the time Mr Lowry accused the tribunal of issuing a report that was “factually wrong and deliberately misleading”. The judge had formed opinions that were not substantiated by evidence, he said then.
The Garda said it forwarded a file to the DPP in 2017 after investigating the alleged obstruction of the tribunal’s work and the DPP “directed no prosecution”.
In his report, Mr Justice Moriarty criticised “persistent and active concealment” that was “calculated to obscure from the tribunal evidence indicating monetary connections between Mr Michael Lowry and Mr Denis O’Brien”.